» Wed Nov 26, 2003 9:20 am
Osram and Hamlet were led into the King's presence, and for a long while, Hamlet could do nothing but stare, not hearing the conversation going on around and about him. <i>This is no king!</i> his mind raged at him. <i>This is a boy, barely grown into a man. A boy playing at kings and castles.</i><BR><BR>The strength of the blood of Numenor was growing thin, diluted by the taint of elvendom. It hung about him, the faint beauty and palidness of Elessar's consort. <i>It was strong, strong and regal, his blood. My blood!</i><BR><BR>Not all the men out of the West settled in Gondor following the destruction wrought by Manwe. Not all of Westernesse poluted themselves with those that swarmed over this land of exile. In the East, the old blood, his old blood, was still strong and true. Some of the old families survived still after so many generations. <i>Elves may live forever, </i>he thought<i> but their life never grows or increases. As the centuries pass, they grow thin and ephemeral, like that wretched wine they sip, faint and watered.</i><BR><BR>Hamlet was not old by the standard of his kin, but he was old enough to be this "king's" grandfather three times over. Osram himself could have sired this whelp! And now, here he was, a man that had fought at the Black Gate, stood in the very presence of the Dark Lord and his Lady, paraded as a prisoner before this child. Hamlet could see little of the Returned King in this, his progeny. <i>The West has fallen, as surely as if it were by the swords of Mordor. The blood that fractured in Isildur has now finaly shattered.</i><BR><BR>It was only gradually that Hamlet became aware that everyone was looking at him, expecting something of him. It was clear what they wanted of him.<BR><BR>"There are things stirring in Mordor, Your Majesty," he could barely force the words of the formal adress from his throat, "but you do not know them, nor can you comprehend them, yet."<BR><BR>"Yes, we know of the King and Queen that have set themselves in power in this land. They are of little concern. A rabble, no more," the King said dismissively.<BR><BR>"The King and Queen do not matter!" King and Queen? There was no royalty in Mordor but that of Sauron himself. "They, and whatever pit they have crawled out from are of no consequence. Not now." For a moment, he paused, considering what to reveal, what, in fact, he truly had to reveal at all. "There are older things growing again in Mordor, things older, perhaps, than the Dark Lord himself. There are things in motion, now, that will make whatever victory you garner here meaningless."<BR><BR>"Be plain, man --"<BR><BR>"The Ring is not destroyed."<BR><BR>For a great while, the words hung between everyone there. Osram's tensness and fear was palpable. The King sat in quiet disbelief, not sure how to react to the sense that the stories his nanny had told him as an infant were coming alive. With the news out of the North of an army of the dead, the return of the Witch King, with the renewed stirrings of Mordor, everything he knew indicated that the Ring still existed. He knew that the One still wielded some power in this world, but there had always been hope, some part of the young king that wished dearly that things were as simple as the stories.<BR><BR>"You lie, Man of Mordor. The Ringbearer threw the One Ring into Orodruin and there, in the flames that forged it, the ring of Sauron was unforged."<BR><BR>"No, it was diminished, but not destoyed. Altered, but not banished. Do you think that that Ring is the only thing crafted by the Lord of the Rings? Do you think it was the only thing touched by his hand?" Ignoring the grasping hands of the guards, Hamlet took a few steps forward so that he could look closely into the King's eyes. "Like his own master before him, the Dark Lord poured a great deal of his strength into creations of his own, creations that still exist, live and breath. Only now, there is not the Master to control them."<BR><BR>Though he did not know how far he could trust the servants of the enemy, Hamlet's words carried some small element of truth. "You still have not told me why you convinced Lieutenant Osram to abandon his post."<BR><BR>Osram flinched visibly at the reminder of his part in the untimely death of Camgalen. The King had not been pleased at all and would probably sned Osram away from his service and away from the city. All that would save him was this man standing next to him who, for some reason beyond comprehension, Osram trusted. Whatever this man's aliegances, there was honor in them albeit of a twisted sort.<BR><BR>"I needed him to get here." The truth was jarring and gutting and it nearly knocked Osram from his feet. "Even I cannot stand against thousands of your soldiers, such as they are, or hope to evade them forever. Osram captured me approaching the Black Gates and I convinced him that he was wasting his time there, guarding nothing."<BR><BR>"And what is it you wish? What is it that brought you here despite the knowledge that you would be captured by enemy forces?"<BR><BR>"I was called to ensure that the Dark Lord's power rests with him and no other. I am sent to destroy the Ring." When he said it, Hamlet was not sure that it was true.<BR><BR>"Sent by what?"<BR><BR>"I don't know."<BR><BR>What had been truth and what had been lies? Neither of the two facing each other was entirely certain. One, a servant of the old evil, the old enemy lent authority by his age and experience. The other, a young man resting uncomfortably on his forefathers' throne, desirous of the peacefull and prosperous reign his should have been. It wasn't fair. Elessar had beaten the Black Hosts at the Gate and Frodo of the Shire had cast the Ring to its doom. It had been done!<BR><BR>But now, they were here, two men of the same kin, the same kith and blood, kings both in their own right, fated to continue the battle their fathers had fought, and their fathers before that. "It does not stop --" Eldarion mumbled to himself. "There is a book in the library at the White Tower. It has a blue binding and it was written I don't know how many ages ago. It says that the battle between good and evil has been fought since the beginning, and that it will be fought until the end, that when all of the evil things -- orcs, trolls, dragons, balrogs -- when all of them are destroyed, then men will find evil amongst themselves to fight. The battle is never finished until it is all finished. I never liked that book very much."<BR><BR>Sighing, the king leaned back in his chair. "There is intelligence out of the north of battle with an army of death. We have had sightings of the Witch King of Angmar and we have seen Rings."<BR><BR>Hamlet was not surprised. If the One still lived, then the Nine at least still had some power, and perhaps what remained of the Seven as well.<BR><BR>"Everything we know tells us that the Ring of the Enemy still roams the land. But I had hoped and prayed that it was not so. And now, you -- one who has, by his own account, served in the Black Hosts at the Black Gate during the War of the Ring -- tell me that the One is in the hands of a new Dark Lord, one that is worse than Sauron himself. I would almost rather it in my own hands than on the finger of its new owner. At least I could put a good end to it."<BR><BR>Leaning forward again, the King took up a quill and parchment and began scribbling furiously, then affixed his seal to the bottom of the paper. "You, Hamlet, as a servant of the evil powers resident in Mordor, are uniquely qualified to seek this prize. I will send with you a detachment of guards, ten or so, to accompany you wherever it is you go. Your weapons and horse will be returned you, but you will remain under guard until such time as I deam fit. You are to seek the Ring and, if possible, acquire it and destroy it. Osram. You, by your own testimony, are guilty of murder and mutiny. However, due to the extenuating circumstances, you will not be executed. You will retain your new rank of captain and will take command of the expedition."<BR><BR>"Yes, My Lord." Osram bowed low, not sure whether to be relieved or terrified.<BR><BR>"Hamlet, do you know where the Ring is now?"<BR><BR>"No, your highness, I do not know for sure, but I do know that I must be at the Morgul Vale soon. From there, I will know where to go."<BR><BR>"Very well. Go now, both of you."